Saturday, January 21, 2017

Stuffed Animal Saturday:
Optimists Die First

Stuffed Animal Saturday is a meme that we post here at We Live and Breathe Books to showcase the book we're currently reading with one of our favorite stuffed animals and discuss our stuffed animal's opinion (well, it's really our opinion, but that's besides the point). We hope you enjoy our quirky feature as much as we enjoy writing it!

This Saturday, possum and I are reading Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen.

Blurb from Goodreads: 
Sixteen-year-old Petula de Wilde is anything but wild. A former crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula shut herself off from the world after a family tragedy. She sees danger in all the ordinary things, like crossing the street, a bug bite, or a germy handshake. She knows: life is out to get you. 
The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class with a small group of fellow misfits. Then a new boy, Jacob, appears at school and in her therapy group. He seems so normal and confident, though he has a prosthetic arm; and soon he teams up with Petula on a hilarious project, gradually inspiring her to let go of some of her fears. But as the two grow closer, a hidden truth behind why he’s in the group could derail them, unless Petula takes a huge risk. 

So far:

I will not lie. I had no idea what this book was about before I started it. Kiersten brought it home, and the cover was compelling enough, so I thought I would give it a try. I am about half way through, and I must say, this book is wonderful.

Part of the blurb on the back cover, pretty much summed it up for me
One pessimist. One optimist. One love story. Award-winning author Susin Nielsen's irresistible novel is both heartrending and laugh-out-loud funny. 
There are these parts, where tears creep into my eyes, and then there are these other parts, where I just have to laugh. At this point, I am so invested in Petula's life. I want her family to heal. I want her to heal. I am just rooting for all to be well in her world again.

Possum is also really enjoying this book. He especially loved the part where Petula and Jacob make a short of Wuthering Heights starring cats.

Keep an eye out for my review in February.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Love and First Sight - Josh Sundquist

Love and First Sight 
Josh Sundquist
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Reading Challenge: #ContRom2017, #PopSugarReadingChallenge2017

Excuse me as I wipe the tears

This was such a sweet and beautiful story of love and friendship, as well as, a story to spread awareness. I knew of Josh Sundquist from my daughter showing me his awesome Halloween costumes, and was interested in reading a book about someone with a disability written by a person with a disability (who also happens to be an advocate for amputees, a paralympian, and a motivational speaker).

A photo posted by Sam Kozbial (@kozbisa) on

When I was in college, my sorority did service for sight, and I had a blind student in my honors chemistry class which required some training with the NJ Commission for the Blind. Therefore, I have some (limited) experience with blind people, and was quite impressed with the information disseminated by Sundquist, and the way he shared the information. I appreciated how he acquainted me with the world of the blind. It did not feel preachy, it felt honest. The interactions between Cecily and Will reminded me of similar interactions I had when being a guide for a person who had never had sight. I totally related to Cecily's struggle to NOT use visuals to describe things, and I adored the way Sundquist had her work that out.

At one point in the story, there is a surgery discussed that could possibly enable Will to see. There is a lot of technical talk when the characters discuss this issue, and I found it all really fascinating. I was so struck by the way Will talked about what it would be like to see for the first first time. How it would be the same as a newborn, but how he could remember it and appreciate it so much more. It's amazing what complicated stuff we passively learn, and I was awed reading about the journey from Will's perspective.

This story is well constructed, and moves along quickly without seeming rushed. I felt like there were no throw-away scenes, but rather, each scene was important in fleshing out the story. The characters were quite authentic and likable. Will was not perfect, but he had so many stellar qualities. Cecily had been bullied her whole life, but was able to find comfort and security in Will's friendship. The quiz team were a great group of friends, who adorably were rooting for Wilecily to happen. Mom and Dad were very present parents (Yay!), and there is this one part with his mom that, heck, I am getting misty thinking about it right now.

Overall: This was a very positive experience with me, which left me appreciating many things and put happy tears in my eyes.

Have you read any great books featuring people with disabilities?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday:
These Ruthless Deeds

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zetas.

These Ruthless Deeds
Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Series: These Vicious Masks, #2
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Waited on by: Sam

England, 1883. Still recovering from a devastating loss, Evelyn is determined to use her powers to save other gifted people from those who would harm them. But when her rescue of a young telekinetic girl goes terribly wrong, Evelyn finds herself indebted to a secret society devoted to recruiting and protecting people like Evelyn and her friends.

As she follows the Society’s orders, healing the sick and embarking on perilous recruitment missions, Evelyn sees her problems disappear. Her reputation is repaired, her friends are provided for, and her parents are newly wealthy. She reunites with the dashing Mr. Kent and recovers the reclusive Mr. Braddock (who has much less to brood over now that the Society can help him to control his dangerous power). But Evelyn can’t help fearing the Society is more sinister than it appears...

My TBR is endless! Obviously, I am waiting on A LOT of books. However, I tend to be a little more eager for sequels, because I NEED to find out what happens next. 

I recently read These Vicious Masks, and was really excited that the sequel would be out soon. I throughly enjoyed my first visit to this world and am excited to return. Victorian England, magic, romance - I was all in. The characters were  totally witty and sardonic -- I loved them, and I need to know their fates! For instance, how is the love triangle going to play out? I am totally shipping Evelyn and Braddock, but the authors didn't consult with me, so I am not sure where the romance is going. I want to know more about the evil society, their dastardly deeds, and the "gifts" the characters have too. I hope to get all those things in the sequel, but I also hope the wit and humor from book 1 continues.

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gem Books I've Read in the Past Year Or So

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Here at We Live and Breathe Books, two of us choose five books each week. This weeks topic is...

Hidden gem books I've read in the past year or so!

Kiersten's Picks

S.J. Goslee
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Whatever. is a really fun coming of age story about a boy who realizes he is gay (or bisexual, I'm not entirely sure what he lands upon in the end). The story is filled with humor and the awkwardness of being a high school student, and just feels really honest - I felt like I could have known these characters in high school. For more thoughts, check out my review here!

Little Black Dresses, Little White Lies
Laura Stampler
Publisher: Simon Pulse

This book had a really similar vibe to Jane by Design, True Jackson VP, and The Carrie Diaries - all television shows that I really loved. The concept of this book was super cute, the cast of characters had such a wide variety of personality, and the book was generally non-stop fun. Check out my full review here!

The Museum of Heartbreak
Meg Leder
Publisher: Simon Pulse

The Museum of Heartbreak was such a sweet and heartfelt book. I really liked the main character and how much she grew throughout the book - she starts out so naive and has to struggle through her coming-of-age story. I loved how this book touched on several different kinds of heartbreak rather than just a romantic one. For more thoughts, check out my review here!

Neal Shusterman
Series: Arc of a Scythe, #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Scythe was absolutely phenomenal. While the concept of reapers isn't an original one, the way Shusterman took the reaper concept and combined it with the idea of immortality was absolutely brilliant. This book was a wild ride, but it also made me really think about life and what is important. Review to come soon!

The Graces
Laura Eve
Series: The Graces, #1
Publisher: Amulet Books

I talk about this book and witch books A Lot but only because I think they're really great ok let me live. This book had a really mystical vibe that I can't really explain - it kind of made me feel like I was in the song Nearly Witches by Panic! at the Disco (which is on the playlist I made inspired by the book). Full review and playlist to be posted soon!

Sam's Picks

Hidden gems is an idiom which means something which is extremely outstanding and not many people may know about
Using the definition above, I went through my read shelf trying to identify those books that I considered gems. This was a really difficult list to compile. There were so many books I read last year, which I think deserve more love. I eventually settled on the five below. These were five star reads for me, and all were 2016 releases except Dahlia Moss, which was a 2015 release, but is being released in paperback format next month.

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss
Max Wirestone
Publisher: Redhook

This book was so much fun. I laughed so hard and so often, my face hurt. Dahlia Moss is a geeky Veronica Mars, who is hired to find a stolen spear. It’s not a real spear though. It’s a spear that was stolen within an online game. However, the crimes from inside the game soon spill from the virtual world to the real world. This was a hilarious trip through geek culture, and I loved every minute of it. (review)

Don't Get Caught
Kurt Dinan
Publisher: Sourcebooks

I have seen several hybrids thrown around to describe this book - Breakfast Club meets Goonies and Breakfast Club meets Ocean’s Eleven probably come closest to the feel of this book. In this story, five people from different social cliques come together for revenge. There are mysteries, pranks and lots of hijinks. I apparently have all the love for amusing books, because this one that was really fun too, and to quote my own review: “You will cheer when the Five succeed, and feel a little bummed when they fail, but man, you will laugh, smile, and fist pump many times along the way.” (review)

Phantom Limbs
Paula Garner
Publisher: Candlewick

All I can say is - Otis. Otis. Otis. Otis. I loved this kid. He was really very special, and I want everyone to read this book and meet Otis. Besides him, there are many other things to love about this book. There is the return of Otis’ first love, who had abruptly excised him from her life, and there’s Darla the promising olympian, who’s career was cut short when she lost her arm. There are the multiple meanings of the term Phantom Limb, which I gleaned from this story and left such a huge impression on me. I have nothing but love for this book. (review)

It's Not Me, It's You
Stephanie Kate Strohm
Publisher: Point

Another book that left me in stitches. Avery is charged with collecting an oral history for her final project, and decides to do one based on her disastrous love life. The oral history format allowed for so many POVs without being overwhelming, and the editor's notes always left me laughing. There were many times I laughed and laughed and laughed some more. But this book was more than funny, it was charming and sweet and I just cannot say enough about it. (review)

We Are Still Tornadoes
Michael Kun and Susan Mullen
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Talk about #FriendshipGoals. This is an epistolary novel chronicling Cath and Scott’s first year out of high school. Cath went away to college, while Scott joined his father in the family business. As they keep in touch via these letters, their friendship grows and changes. I just had so many feels! Cute, charming, heartwarming, swoony — there are not enough adjectives available to me. (review)

What are some hidden gems you read last year?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: The Darkest Corners - Kara Thomas

The Darkest Corners
Kara Thomas
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thanks to Delacorte Press and First in Line for the ARC I received at YALLFest!
Full disclosure: I'm reviewing this book four months after reading it because I'm the worst.

The Darkest Corners follows Tessa as she returns to Fayette, Pennsylvania, the place she used to live before Bad Things happened. Tessa and her former friend Callie witnessed a murder, and neither of them were the same after. Callie's family was torn apart, her cousin being the murder victim, and Tessa's mother and sister ended up abandoning her, which meant her being sent to live with her grandmother in Florida. But when Tessa returns to Fayette and reunites with Callie, they start to think about the murder again, wondering if things didn't happen quite how they had thought before.

There are so many layers to the mystery of The Darkest Corners. At first it seems like there's only one real mystery, but then there are multiple mysteries, all entangled together. There were so many things happening throughout the book, and it was all so fascinating. Peeling back each layer and learning more about what was truly happening kept me flipping the pages straight through to the end.

While the book was super thrilling and shocking, there were some moments that I was just like, "Really?" Some of the plot points were a little farfetched, but it sort of adds to the style of the book. Kind of like a soap opera or tele-novella - it was like the worst possible thing would always happen next. And I couldn't look away.

I wouldn't say I fell in love with any of the characters, but being a mystery/thriller, I feel like that's kind of a good thing. The back cover of my ARC says, "By the last page, there will be no one left to trust," and I think that's a really accurate portrayal of how I felt about the characters. With all the twists in this book, I wasn't sure if I could trust any of the characters.

While thriller isn't a genre I usually grab for, I'm really happy I had the opportunity to read The Darkest Corners. It was absolutely thrilling, and the ending was so crazy and then I totally freaked out at the end of the epilogue. So creepy. This definitely isn't a predictable mystery, and I highly recommend this!

What's one of your favorite thrillers/mysteries?
Let us know in the comments!